FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Sheer excitement at the opportunity to jump with foreign jumpmasters brought U.S. paratroopers to brave the freezing temperatures to get in line for Lottery Day of Operation Toy Drop XIX, Dec. 9 at Green Ramp on Pope Army Airfield.
Led by the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), a U.S. Army Reserve unit based at Fort Bragg, N.C., OTD is the largest annual airborne operation in the world, comprised of almost 4000 U.S. paratroopers and jumpmasters from eight partner nations.
With so many participants showing up in hopes of winning a slot to jump, only true dedication allows for a Soldier to show up nearly 24 hours in advance, just to get a chance.
Spc. Matthew Kreps, 118th Military Police Company, showed up at 8 a.m. Dec. 8 to find he was the first in line for the lottery. Arriving with no supplies at the line-up, and with true airborne determination, Kreps wasted no time in staking his spot, not even daring to return for extra clothes or food before setting up camp to wait out the next 24 hours before the lottery began.
For Soldiers participating in OTD, the chance to jump with foreign jumpmasters is more than enough reason to wait out an entire day in line, according to Kreps.
"Foreign wings are a right of passage for paratroopers here," said the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., native. "I wanted the opportunity to donate with the added benefit of getting to jump with our foreign allies."
"Getting to interact with other countries is great to just have in your tool bag," he continued. "Understanding that we are a diverse world and its not just America here, we have allies that support us and we should come out here and support them by getting to jump with them."
This year at OTD, more than 1,000 Soldiers who came for the training donated toys hoping to give back to their community during the holiday season, showing once again the commitment to selfless service that is embodied in the U.S. Soldier.
"I'm happy that I am able to be here and to donate, and the chance to jump really seems secondary to that," says Kreps. "Any time we can jump and improve our readiness is a good thing. The U.S. Army is the greatest fighting force in the world and there is no greater soldier than one who is willing to jump out of a plane and fight."
"This is just another demonstration that U.S. paratroopers are the greatest fighting force," he continued, "and that we're always ready, always adaptable, always capable, and it doesn't matter who is at the front of that plane, we're ready to go!"